ReDeads, Like Likes, Iron Knuckles, and Darknuts. All of these would add compelling experiences and help maintain tension late game.
ReDeads were SCARY when playing OoT for the first time. They made the case for the dark atmosphere of OoT. When I was a wee little child, I remember staying up past my bed time to play the cemetery area. I pulled the tombstone, and found a cave. Inside, I saw what I thought were NPCs, due to lighting and the fact that other enemies didn’t have human proportions. So when it paralyzed me with its scream and strangled me to death, I was mortified and had to shut off the game.
In BotW, ReDeads could be the chief populators of ruins. They aren’t threatening when you see them coming, but are the last thing you want to see when you come around a corner. Imagine some of the Lomei Ruins being filled with these guys! (Have you been to those? They’re some of my favorite areas. Just saying the name isn’t a spoiler). They could be compelling even late game if you couldn’t eat or change equipment while paralyzed. They could punish the reckless player and reward one who studies their environment.
In a game with weapon degradation as a core mechanic, how in the hell did like likes not make it through into the game? These are another enemy that would be great for ambushes, or for random spawns (instead of the Chus, which are harmless in their base form and merely annoying in elemental form). One technical thing that could make them interesting would be some soft body physics — let them squeeze through tight spaces, and behave like a viscuous liquid; when you cut them, have them part where your weapon passes through. This game is already good at making the layout of terrain matter and this would amplify it.
Iron Knuckles and Darknuts would be the test of swordsmanship. While I couldn’t really get into the original LoZ, I was awed at how you could go 5 minutes into AoL and find the most compelling example of elegant sword play in a video game. To recreate them adequately within the confines of 3D controls, they’d need to bring back the directional attacks introduced in OoT. Depending on how they attack, you have to respond with the appropriate attack type (or, if your weapon has a bad matchup, like a spear only being good for stabbing, you could rely on parries and flurry attacks). These guys would be good candidates for minions of Ganon that use the corrupted guardian technology! Maybe they have a floating guardian horse, or their helmet comes off when you headshot them and flies around, firing guardian lasers. I can see, however, that these guys might have been hard to reconcile with the nature theme of the game. They would only fit in at skull camps, Hyrule Castle, and the dungeons (btw, they get better than the elephant, but not by much. The one in the northwest portion of the map has the best reward for exploring.)
The lack of enemy diversity, and the path of least resistance (easy to run and get away, you’ll almost never be ambushed by difficult battles in the overworld) does a lot to prevent the game from feeling truly dangerous when you’re not exploring an area for the first time or going to Hyrule Castle. This is still definitely my favorite game this side of Y2K least, though.
I think we should focus on the enemy AI. Lyrels who stare at you and do their thing. You have moblins and other creatures who go around hunting, grabbing the nearest weapon, throwing other enemies, etc. Some monsters like to stalk you.
The most important enemy I’ve encountered (from an entertaining standpoint) was the NPC enemy that attempts to assassinate you early on in the game. THAT was cool.
Why is there an assumption that the enemy has to be the enemy and the good guy has to be the good guy? What if not all the monsters were ‘bad’ and not all the humans/zora/rito/whatever were good?
Bah, I just need to play more. All I can do is get a shrine or two and then call it a day.